White decor and solid walls: two more towers of the ancient Donskoy Monastery to be restored

White decor and solid walls: two more towers of the ancient Donskoy Monastery to be restored
Photo by Press Service of Mayor and Moscow Government
The Moscow Cultural Heritage Department has issued a permit to restore round, corner and square towers of the Donskoy Monastery built over 300 years ago. The renovation of the fortress wall of this ancient temple complex with all the facilities started in 2013.

Two more towers of the fortress wall of the Donskoy Monastery are to be restored soon. The Moscow Cultural Heritage Department has issued a work permit. The restoration is expected to complete by the early 2020. Round Tower No. 11 is located in the southwestern part of the complex, with Square Tower No. 12 constructed on its western part.

The red-brick monastery wall with 12 towers was built in the late 17th — early 18th century. The fence and towers were erected in line with Russian defence architecture traditions— with loopholes and banquettes along the walls (the gallery running around the monastery). It was a convenient location to fire at the enemy.

Both towers are three-tiered, with open arcades on top (a row of identical arches). The open arcade railing was decorated with white-stone balusters, and the walls had decorative swirls or crests, typical of Moscow Baroque of late 17th century. These ornaments have partially survived.

Photo by Press Service of Mayor and Moscow Government

The previous restoration of the monastery fortress facilities took place in the mid-20th century. Since then, the buildings have become badly dilapidated, with a part of the white-stone decor lost, brickwork partially collapsed and cracked.

"First, the restorers are to clean tower facades from dirt, old paint and plaster, and then restore the brickwork, the white-stone basement and the decor. Further, the facades will be covered with a fresh layer of coating, after which the walls will have brick-colour painting, with decorative elements painted white. The tower walls and vaults are to be upgraded, too. They will be cleaned, levelled, primed and painted," said Head of the Moscow Cultural Heritage Department Alexei Yemelyanov. 

According to Alexei, restoration of 8 out of the 12 towers, as well as 14 sections of the wall between the two towers is to be funded from the city budget. Two towers, the square one in the northern part (No. 4) and the round corner one in the northeastern part of the fence (No. 5), have been renovated this May.

Photo by Press Service of Mayor and Moscow Government

Convent's restoration

The Donskoy stauropegic monastery is a cultural heritage site of federal significance. The ensemble includes more than 30 architectural monuments. Their restoration, as well as improvement of its grounds, is funded from federal and regional budgets, the monastery's own budget and by private investors.

Any repair or restoration works are supervised by the Moscow Cultural Heritage Department. The architectural complex facilities are forbidden to demolish. Their historical appearance cannot be altered.

The large-scale restoration of the Donskoy Monastery's architectural ensemble started in 2013. The work in the Minor Cathedral was completed in 2016. Experts have opened the white-stone plinth of the temple facades, renovated the ancient windows of the 16th century, restored the interiors of the temple and the refectory, recreated the iconostasis according to historical documents.

Photo by Press Service of Mayor and Moscow Government. Denis Grishkin

In 2017, the Church of Archangel Michael was restored, with both architectural appearance of the temple, and a monumental sculpture, paintings and iconostasis recreated. Also, experts have laid utilities and landscaped the grounds. Today, restoration of the Donskoy Monastery Seminary and the baths of the 18th century is underway. The work on the facades is expected to finish this year. 23 tombstones have been restored in the Donskoy Monastery's necropolis at the expense of Moscow's budget, with seven more currently under restoration. 

Photo by Press Service of Mayor and Moscow Government. Denis Grishkin

History of the Donskoy Monastery

The Donskoy Monastery was founded in 1593 by decree of Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich. The monastery was named after the Don Icon of the Mother of God. It was to her that Tsar prayed for the salvation of Moscow from the invasion of the Crimean Khan Ğazı Geray in 1591. The monastery was built to replace a small camp church keeping this icon.

The Cathedral of Don Icon of the Mother of God was the first building of the monastery complex made of stone. In 1679, a tent-roofed bell tower and a refectory were added.

The second Cathedral of the Don Icon of the Mother of God, later called the Grand Cathedral, was constructed in 1684-1698. From 1686 to 1711, the monastery walls with 12 towers were also built. They looked very much like the walls of the Novodevichy Monastery.

Photo by Press Service of Mayor and Moscow Government. Denis Grishkin

In the 18th century, the architectural ensemble was supplemented by other facilities. There was a gate Church of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God built over the northern gate in 1714; the Church of Saints Zacharias and Elizabeth with a bell tower was completed over the western gate; a hospital and other facilities were constructed in the southwestern part.

In the 1920s, worship services were still held in the monastery, but some buildings were to perform other functions. They housed some Soviet institutions, with part of the premises made residential. By the end of 1929, all the monastery buildings were nationalised. Worship services ceased. Monastery facilities were used to house an anti-religious museum, a boarding school, a factory and a dairy farm. In 1935, the Museum of Architecture of the USSR Academy of Architecture was opened on the grounds of Donskoy Monastery. It was not until 1991 that the entire monastery ensemble returned to the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate.

Today, the grounds of Donskoy Monastery house a restoration workshop, the Pictorial Embroidery Scientific and Educational Centre, Donskoy youth club, a sunday school, theological training courses and postgraduate courses for teachers of the Orthodox Culture Basics.

The Donskoy Monastery's necropolis is a resting place of many prominent church, political and military figures, as well as Russian writers. The monastery necropolis also includes more than 100 graves of Georgian church, political and public figures, as well as the family tomb of the Golitsyn princes (about 100 graves). On the grounds behind the Minor Cathedral apses, you will find Greek necropolis of the monastery of the second half of the 18th — first half of the 19th centuries.

Photo by Press Service of Mayor and Moscow Government. Denis Grishkin

Also, about 90 participants of the Patriotic War of 1812, 11 Decembrists, participants of the Crimean War (1853-1856), Russian-Turkish War (1877-1878) and the World War I (1914-1918) are buried on the Monastery's grounds.

Grandmother, uncle and aunts of Alexander Pushkin, as well as relatives of Alexander Griboyedov, Ivan Turgenev and Leo Tolstoy are buried here, too.

Some tombstones are made by outstanding sculptors Vitali, Gordeyev, Demut-Malinovsky, Zamarayev and Martos.

Restoration and preservation of architectural monuments is one of priorities of the Moscow Cultural Heritage Department. Over the past eight years, more than 1,200 architectural monuments have been restored in the city.